We often read and hear the terms peace and peacemaking/building, yet nevertheless, we are rarely told what the authors mean by them. Their meanings are assumed to be common-sense to the extent that any question about their meanings is ruled out or considered naïve. But are these questions really naïve? Is the answer self-evident? Perhaps yes, inasmuch as peace is imagined and conceived through ideas and concepts which long ago have shaped, to borrow Allison’s phrase (1969: 689), the “conceptual lens” through which we see the reality of peace. I want to deliberate on the meaning of peace and peacebuilding in the realist-liberalist theory and practice. I focus on realism and liberalism because their theoretical precepts of peace inform most, if not all, contemporary peacebuilding/making (notice the active connotation of the verbs: build and make) process.
The term peacebuilding/making is composed by linking the noun, peace, with the active verbs building/making. Understanding the linking framework and the implications of this linkage is important because the term “peace” and “peacebuilding/ making” are attractive and have the ability to legitimise polices and actions in the name of peace. These terms continue to be heavily drawn upon and emphasised in the political discourse which reconstructs and reshapes the life of many people, the landscape and urban environment. Today, there is a recipe for peacebuilding articulated in terms of authority, security, democracy, free-market economy, etc. Put simply, this recipe is a combination of realist and liberalist conceptualisations of reality of peace and un-peace. I do not aim to provide the account of peace or peacebuilding, but to follow the general traces of the realist-liberalist peacebuilding discourse in order to discern their effect on the conflict they are supposed to resolve, political-social transformation and exclusion.
In general, I argue that peace and peacebuilding in the contemporary political discourse are an interpretation; contingent and contested ideas co-opt the realist-liberalist representations. This process of interpretation draws on predominant realist-liberalist terminologies and metaphors. Therefore, it is commonly represented by two modes: juxtaposing peace with un-peace, war and violence, and linking peace with certain liberal ideas (e.g., democracy, freedom, capitalism). The Israel-Palestine peacebuilding process offers a live example that demonstrates my argument. Israel-Palestine peacebuilding is authored according to the realist-liberalist conceptions of conflict resolution, namely two states and democratisation. Therefore, the process is predominantly articulated in security and market language which helped obscure other alternatives and alienated the discourse of reconciliation, tolerance, and re-thinking identities. It also helped to reconstruct the land spatially and demographically in a way that made peace a remote possibility.
Realism, Liberalism and Peace
Politics and international relations claim that they aspire to make peace on earth. Nonetheless, the meaning of peace is contingent on their own account and representation of peace and un-peace. The realist-liberalist political theory continues to imagine peace in relation to security and fear. It envisions the solution to be found in the central authority. The loss of authority leads to anarchy, disorder and conflict. Creating and regulating the central authority has been the concern of political theory.
Hobbes’s seminal thesis, Leviathan, has been a source of inspiration, authority and grounding foundation for the realist and liberalist political theory. What makes peace happen is the “fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement” (Hobbes 1651: 79). The central puzzle of the Leviathan is how to master the state of nature which inclines humans into conflict. Fortuna dilapidates order and peace (Machiavelli, 2003). Hobbes aims to fully control Machiavelli’s fortuna through rationalism and scientific method. This is possible Hobbes argues, because human beings are rational and function according to a materialist and mechanical logic. Therefore, through science we can control the human behaviour and make it conducive to peace and serenity. As such, peace is represented as a derivative thing that can be acquired through a rational and scientific social engineering. Contingency and fortuna are the enemies of peace; peace is the product of order and authority. To overcome fortuna, Hobbes contends that the central authority must be erected and organised according to rationally and scientifically grounded (“art”) principles in the form of a worldly (“artificial”) sovereign. People should submit to the commands of the sovereign they created. Creating a central authority in a form of a state has been the dominator of peacebuilding theory today. Arendt picked up the idea of state and equated it to the concept of rights. In other words, “statelessness” is one of the main problems of our time. Hence being stateless is equivalent to the denial of the “right to have rights” (Arendt, 1994). Realists believe that order and central authority are possible at the domestic level; however, they are missing at the international level. Thus the only way to achieve peace and security is through maximising power (Mearsheimer, 1994-5; 2010) or achieving a balance of power (Waltz, 1979).
Liberalism accepts the principles of Realism (self-interest, power maximisation, anarchy, rationalism, state authority), yet it takes a more positive attitude. Liberalism suggests that despite the lack of central authority on the global level, peace is possible between states (central authorities) because self-interest and rationalism would incline states to cooperate. Kant (2005) assembled a recipe for what become known as the liberal peace theory and practice (Doyle, 1983). Peace occurs if nations and states embrace a liberal doctrine which includes: democracy (Doyle, 1986; Russett, 1993; Maoz & Russett, 1987), capitalism and free-market (Gartzke, 2007), interdependence and cooperation (Keohane & Nye, 2003). The so-called “Kantian Triangle” (international organisations, democracy and economic interdependence) is represented as a self-perpetuating system that sustains peace (Russett, 2010). Consequently, peace materialises once the foundations and the system are put in motion. Accordingly, peace will be a systematic and perennial outcome of a rational design, and hence it ceases to be subject to contingency.
Poststructuralism challenges the positivist (realist-liberalist) meta-theoretical assumptions. The positivist lens shaped how we imagine peace and the process of peacebuilding (Richmond, 2008). The positivist quest for foundationalism and firm grounded theory colonised our creativity and imagination. Both Realists and Liberals claim that the state (or an equivalent central authority) is a necessary foundation for peace. The peacebuilding template they envisage begins with building an authority and order and then regulating the relationships between these different authorities (states) through balance of power, democratisation, cooperation and interdependence (Huntington, 1996). In being affiliated with authority, the authors of peace processes gain authority to speak and champion the peacebuilding discourse. These authors are considered to be conscious, intentional and purposive from empiricists’ viewpoint. Poststructuralism removes the conscious and intentional subject from the production of meaning (Shapiro, 1984). Setting order, authority and institution building is often made through the exercise of power, exclusion and violence. It requires construction of difference and drawing lines to demarcate what becomes “us”/“them”, ours/theirs, fellow-national/foreigner, etc.
Peace and Peacebuilding: A Conceptual Framework
The Oxford Dictionary (ed. Pearsall, 2001) defines peace as “freedom from disturbance”, “tranquillity”, or “a period in which there is no war or a war has ended”. Peace is circularly defined as the absence of physical war, fear, violence and conflict. Theories of international relations have contrived a recipe for peacebuilding (i.e. to avoid war). Peace is derivative and something to be pursued. The meaning of peace is passed to the common-sense to derive its meaning by juxtaposing peace with war, violence, conflict, security, fear, danger and so on. Simultaneously, the definition of war, violence, security and danger casts us back to the term “peace” because none of them have an objective meaning. To gain security and avoid war and danger, political theory invests in theorising about “peacebuilding”. This mode of thinking and even the names of its authors are tense with power differential and ambiguity that colonise our contemporary political thinking, as Carver (1996) rightly noticed. Today political actors are labelled as Machiavellian, Hobbesian, Lockean, Rawlsian, etc. as a source of authority.
The meta-theoretical assumptions of the realist-liberalist peacemaking favours a net of intersecting interpretations of peace, tranquillity, war, danger, risk, authority, etc. It contends that peace can be achieved rationally through a scientific method. Nowadays, processes of peacemaking have their own imagined and authorised institutions, agents (NGOs, donors, negotiators, diplomats, mediators, sponsors), practices (institutionalised violence, security arrangements, methods, rounds of negotiations, exclusions, marginalisation, assassination, detention, deportation) and production of geographies, partition, identities and political subjects (maps, realities on the ground, demography). There is a constant interchange between the “scientific” theorisation about peace, peacebuilding processes and agents of peace (diplomats, negotiators, elite, leaders). Peacebuilding comes close to a corporate institution for dealing with conflicts. It marshals financial support, includes or excludes actors, authorises certain practices and delimits others, writes about the conflict, and defining what is acceptable or deviant behaviour. Peace studies, initially developed after WWII, were in vogue after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are now numerous specialised university departments in peace studies, peace institutions, journals, peacebuilding missions and peacekeeping (Rogers, 2010). The U.N. in 2006 established an independent Peacebuilding Commission which has an advisory role, proposing plans for peacebuilding, identifying factors that undermine peace, identifying actors and marshalling resources (U.N., 2006). In short, peacebuilding is a discipline and it is almost impossible to think now about peace without thinking about the theoretical impositions of peace studies which involves categorisation, normative ranking, divisions and practices which compromise the template of peacebuilding. There is one more thing to be emphasised, most peacebuilding theories are produced in and by “developed” Western countries, while the subjects of these theories are the “Third World” and “developing” counties. The subjects are already excluded from the start, and hence have little chance to intervene in the process. This is a serious epistemological shortcoming which cannot be resolved by a “problem-solving” approach (Cox, 1981). It requires rethinking the whole process of theorisation to allow the subjects to intervene.
 I use the term peacebuilding and peacemaking interchangeably
 At the introduction Hobbes makes a metaphorical conception of “man” and life as a machine (cf. Hobbes, 1651: 7)
Allison, G., 1969. Conceptual Models and The Cuban Missile Crisis. The American Political Science Review, 63(3) pp.689-718
Arendt, H., 1994. Eassys In Understanding. New York: Schocken Books.
Carver, T., 1996. “Public Man” and the Critique of Masculinities. Political Theory, 24(4), pp.673-86.
Cox, R., 1981. Theory Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations. Millennium – Journal of International Studies , 10(2), pp.126-55.
Dambach, C., 2011. Alliance for Peacebuilding. [Online] Available at: http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/?page=aboutpeacebuilding [Accessed 5 June 2011].
Doyle, M., 1983. Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 12(3), pp.205-35.
Doyle, M., 1986. Liberalism and World Politics. The American Political Science Review, 80(4), pp.1151-69.
Foucault,M., 1980. Truth and Power. In: C. Gordon, ed. Power/Knowledge. Selected
Gartzke, E., 2007. The Capitalist Peace. American Journal of Political Science, 51(1), pp.166-91.
Huntington, S., 1996. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Hobbes, T., 1651. Leviathan. London: Andrew Crooke.
Kaufmann, C., 1996. Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars. International Security, 20(4), pp.136-175.
Keohane, R. & Nye , J., 2003. Realism and Complex Interdependence. In: Cronin , K. Dash & Goddard, eds. International Political Economy: Readings on State-Market Relations in the Changing Global Order. 2nd ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kissinger, H., 2000. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822. London: Phoenix Press.
Machiavelli, N., 2003. The Prince. Translated by G. Bull. London: Penguin Books.
Kant, I., 2005. Perpetual Peace. New York: Cosimo.
Maoz, Z. & Russett, B., 1987. Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace 1946-1986. American Political Science Review, 87(2), pp.624-38.
Mearsheimer, J., 2010. Structural Realism. In: T. Dunne, M. Kurki & S. Smith, eds., International Relations Theory: Discipline and Diversity. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mearsheimer, J. & Van Evera, J., 1995. When Peace Means War. The New Republic, 25, pp.16-21.
Pearsall, J. ed., 2001. The Concise Oxford Dictionary. 10th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Richmond, O., 2008. Peace in International Relations. New York: Routledge.
Shapiro, M., 1984. Introduction. In: M. Shapiro, ed. Language and Politics. New York: The New York University Press.
Russett, B., 1993. Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Russett, B., 2010. Liberalism. In: T. Dunne, M. Kurki & S. Smith, eds. International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rogers, P., 2010. Peace Studies. In: A. Collins, ed. Contemporary Security Studies. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rorty, R., 1989. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Waltz, K., 1979. Theories of International Relations. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc.
Emile Badarin is a first year candidate in the MPhil/PhD programme at the University of Exeter, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.